South Bay

Where To Donate Toys for the Holidays: Toys for Tots, Spark of Love, and More

The holidays can be a particularly rough time to be in need, and this year's terrible fire season has put far more families in this position than usual. Showing our kids how the community rallies is important. We can make time to volunteer with our kids—a great holiday tradition—and kids can also experience the joy of giving by passing along some of last year's gifts, sharing the old with someone new before finding out what Santa delivers this season. When we pursue the parental thrill of buying super-cool toys, wrapping them, and making our kids' day on Christmas or Hanukkah, maybe we could add just one more for a child in need. We know of some great places to bring both kinds of toy donations—new and gently used—to spread around some of that holiday joy.

18 Hanukkah Celebrations for Kids in LA and Orange County

However you spell it—Hanukkah, Hanukka, Hannukah, Chanukah, or Channuka—SoCal is a great place to be for the Festival of Lights. Home to a Jewish population larger than that of Jerusalem, Los Angeles is all about "lighting candles, wearing sandals, by the sea" (at least, that's why Tom Leher spent Hanukkah in Santa Monica). Giant menorahs light up open spaces from The OC to the Valley. Two of the season's biggest events are at the Skirball Center and the Shalom Institute, but these major festivals are just the tip of the dreidel; local events and candle lightings burn the sunset oil all week long...

LA's Christmas Boat Parades: Newport Beach, the Marina, and 9 More

Unlike certain other parts of the country that shall remain nameless (no need to go rubbing it in the noses of cities like, say, Boston), LA is all about outdoor activities at Christmastime - and nothing says "This is why I moved to Southern California" quite like a Christmas boat parade. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, boat owners gussy up their crafts and parade them up and down waterways for applauding spectators, who line the harbors and marinas from Dana Point to Ventura. Driving around looking at holiday lights is great; letting them float by you is even better...

December GoList: Best Holiday Events and Activities for LA and OC Kids

Thanksgiving is behind us, and the daily, backward-counting dose of chocolate known as Advent begins. Suddenly we have barely three weeks left to squeeze every bit of holiday fun out of this city that we possibly can—with a week left over to decide whether we should try to celebrate New Year's Eve with our kids, or elusively without them. There are amazing holiday light displays to take in; and then there are more amazing holiday light displays. There are Santa photos to snap, trees to lightNutcrackers to see, and Hanukkah looms large on the lit horizon, too. In short, no matter how hard you try to do it all, there is more epic fun stuff going on than anyone could possibly do in a month. If you had to choose, though, below are the dozen December events we would suggest you make time for.

12 Restaurants Open on Christmas Day in Los Angeles and Orange Country

The tree is trimmed, the presents wrapped, and the cookies baked and boxed. Hmm. Now, what to make for Christmas dinner. Our suggestion? Reservations. That’s right. Many Southland restaurants are open and happy to serve you on Christmas Day. You’ve already done so much to get ready for the holidays—instead of holing up in the kitchen, pile your family and out-of-town guests into the car and give yourself the gift of dining out. That way you all get to enjoy the day!

Best Christmas Lights and Awesomely Decorated Homes around Los Angeles

Whether your holiday of choice is Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, or Kwanzaa there is a timeless joy to be found in taking a spin around the holiday light displays. And while the glammy glitz of The Biltmore is always fun, there is a particular magic to those over-the-top holiday light displays created by someone's (if thankfully not your) next-door neighbor. Even better is a whole street made up of nothing but this kind of neighbor, and we know where a few of those are.

Fun and Free Things To Do Thanksgiving Weekend with LA Kids, November 23-26

In recent years, Thanksgiving was all about cute mash-ups (remember Thanksgivvikuh?), Black Friday shopping, and outrage over Thursday-is-Not-Friday-But-the-Middle-of-a-Holiday sales. This year, Hanukkah is buried unobtrusively in December, and many major retailers are promising to stay closed on Thursday. (You go, Lakeshore LearningHome Depot, and Barnes & Noble! As for the rest of you, time out with no pumpkin pie.)

We've found a few family friendly venues open on Thanksgiving, where you can enjoy a little morning cardio, a visit with animal friends, and maybe a good meal. (Make sure you check the hours for the day; some places are closing early.) You can make your Friday about shopping, or you can gather the family for a flick, whether new or timeless. Once again, Saturday is the new Friday, and it's all about the local.

We here are thankful for much, and hope you feel the same way. We're thankful for our beautiful climate, which lets us sled on the sand as easily as on the snow. We're grateful for the truly unique shows, spectacles, and experiences that come our way this time of year. We're grateful for the health and well-being of our loved ones, and we're grateful for you, our readers. Happy Thanksgiving, guys!

Keep reading for some of our best finds for fun this Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and, thankfully, Thanksgiving weekend...

Holiday Volunteering: Helping LA Kids Find Their Spirit of Giving

Sharing traditions with our children makes the holidays all the sweeter. The pies we bake, candles we light, songs we sing, and the gifts we give enrich the rhythm of this festive season. Volunteering to help those in need is another tradition we can offer to our kids. Giving our time and attention to our communities, whether we're dishing up food or singing Christmas carols, is often the best gift of all. And setting up our kids for a life of sharing and empathy is a gift we give to them and to the world they inherit.

10 Ways To Take Photos with Santa Claus Like an Angeleno

Mall Santas have a special place in many of our hearts (and in most Southland shopping centers), and the holidays really aren't complete without a round of Miracle on 34th Street. Still, we're not raising little Manhattanites; we're raising Southern California babies, and that calls for an outside-the-box kind of Santa Claus photo. If you're in search of quantity, Santa can be found in every mall, at every Christmas tree lighting, at any number of holiday shopping events, and even at one or two Nutcracker performances. But for some real Angeleno quality, snap a photo with Santa at one of these fun, funky, and totally LA Father Christmas experiences.

The Nutcracker: Holiday Performances of the Classic Ballet for LA & OC Kids this Christmas

Most of the year, most of us parents don't attempt to take our children to full-length ballet productions, but Christmas just doesn't feel like Christmas without one good Nutcracker. And if one good Nutcracker begins to make it feel a lot like Christmas, then LA, Orange, and Ventura counties are evidently hitting Uber-Christmas in the coming weeks with more than two dozen professional Nutcracker productions.

Incidentally, we've got answers to the two questions posed most often by LA parents in search of a Nutcracker Ballet for their families: Yes, there is a condensed version staged specifically for kids, offered by the Pacific Ballet down in Costa Mesa or Classical Ballet Theater in Palos Verdes; and yes, there are local productions performed with full orchestra - at the Long Beach Terrace Theater, the Broad Stage, the Dolby Theatre, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and the Anaheim Ballet. There is even the odd Nutcracker Tea or two—in case you were wondering.

And when you've had your fill of Sugarplum Fairies, we can direct you to a whole bunch of other kinds of holiday shows and concerts

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